Curmudgeonalia
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October 1, 2007

Mayflower

Nathaniel Philbrick – ISBN – 9780143111979

This is a truly astounding book. Much as I (used to) think I knew about American history I found this enlightening far beyond my expectations.

We all know, and know we know, about the Puritans, the Mayflower and the Speedwell; Robinson, Bradford, Standish and the Pilgrims; Massasoit, Squanto and the Wampanoags; the Narragansetts, the Pokanockets and all the rest. Learned it way back in grammar school!!

Trust me . . . we don’t! Or at least won’t until this book is read. It is a wonderfully informative, well organized and written epistle about the settling of New England in the early 17th century. He amply describes the reasons for the voyage, how it ended up well north of intentions, the initial encounters with Native Americans, why some were (reluctantly) welcoming and others were not, and what in due course fomented the savage conflicts which ultimately occurred. As well he discusses the adversity faced by these folks, unaccustomed to the brutally cold climate and unaware of farming or fishing. Parts of this will be familiar to all, but there is fascinating information not generally shared amongst those of us educated in Pilgrim myth.

Philbrick answers questions we’ve never raised, explains why much of what we know is false or insufficient, offers an in depth recantation of that 60-70 year period from the Puritan exodus to Holland, thru and beyond King Philip’s war, and assists in the understanding of the founding of the New England colonies in a way which is as relaxed as it is absorbing. And he does it all with nary a mention of Priscilla Mullins famous quote: “why don’t you speak for yourself, John.”

With the exception of Dogs of God, I cannot recall a history book I have enjoyed more, or learned more from in the last 5 years. That would include 1776 and the several I have reviewed which were written by Mark Kurlansky.

But enough . . . I highly recommend a leisure and thoughtful read. It is destined to be as rewarding as anything you’ll spend several hours doing in the next little while.

Posted by respeto at October 1, 2007 9:46 AM